Road Trips

The Parent's Survival Guide for the Summer Family Road Trip

Summer vacation is the perfect time to take your family road trip. Whether you're hitting the road to go camping or to your cottage, or taking a long drive just to visit the grandparents, a summer road trip should be on your to-do list this year.

By Elna Cain Wheels.ca

Jul 6, 2015 5 min. read

Article was updated 7 years ago

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School is out and you know what that means, right?

It's time to take your family on that much anticipated road trip.

If you have toddlers or small children, how do you prepare for a long trip across cities or provinces? What car accessories do you need? How often should you stop? And above all, how will you keep your little ones occupied and happy?

If you're not sure how to prepare for a car trip with your children, here are some tips from the parent's survival guide to make it a little easier for you.

family road trip
RELATED: Top 10 Road Trip Destinations on a Cross Canada Adventure 

If you own a newer vehicle, check-ups are usually part of the regular car maintenance schedule laid out in your owner's manual.

If your vehicle is older, yearly check-ups are recommended. But, no matter how old your car is, if you decide on taking a long road trip, plan to get your car looked over a couple weeks before you set out on your trip.

If you're faced with an auto repair bill, you'll have time before your road trip to get everything fixed and running smoothly.

Make sure your fluids are topped off, your tires are properly inflated, your headlights and turn signals work – and your spare tire is in good shape.
 RELATED: Ten things to do before your next road trip

Road Trip Essentials for Toddlers and Small Children

Face it:

Children have short attention spans and if you don't want them watching movies for the entire trip, how can you keep them safe, busy and happy?

1. Basic First Aid Kit

Make sure you pack band-aids, wipes, a flashlight, scissors and anything else important in your first aid kit.

If you or your toddler gets motion sickness easily, plan to pack some Gravol and a towel for messes. In other cases, pack some Aspirin for yourself (it will get noisy in the car).

first aid kit

2. Nighttime Essentials

If you plan to drive at night, or part of the night, consider buying a seatbelt pillow for your child. They attach to the seatbelt and provide a comfortable place to fall asleep.

Blankets and favourite stuffed animals are a must if you have small children. And if your child drinks from bottles, you could invest in a bottle bungee, which is a clip you can secure on their car seat so that the bottle doesn't fall or disappear while you're traveling.

nighttime essentials for summer road trip

3. Pack Lots of Toys and Have Lots of Activities

Just ask any mom and you will get a ton of ideas for toys and activities to pack when you're planning for a summer road trip.

But, if you're stuck for ideas, here are some toys and activities that my twin toddlers enjoy when we take a long drive:

  • Window writers – washable markers that you can use on your car's windows

  • Sticker books – have your child develop their fine motor skills and keep them entertained with a simple sticker book

  • Flashlights or light up wands – your child or children can have fun playing light shows

  • Dry erase board

For more ideas, check out the Top 10 Car Games for Road Trips.

family road trip

4. Pack Portable Snacks

Full tummies equals happy children, so when you're planning a road trip this summer, pack a lot of snacks.

Make a grocery run before the big day and stock up on mess-free snacks from pretzels, cheese strings and mixed nuts to fruit roll-ups, raisins, and crackers,

Toddler having a snack in a car seat

Just as important is having the proper containers and cups for snacks. Spill-proof cups and containers are a must for any car trip.
RELATED: Top Ten Things To Consider Before Purchasing A Family Car

5. Plan Your Rest Stops Along Your Route

Take a few minutes to plan frequent stops along your travel route. Whether it's for a potty break or to just stretch your legs and run around, stopping at parks or rest stops is a requirement when you have children.

If you are having trouble locating rest stops, visit Alongways. It's a route-planning map that locates spots where you can stop.

Just enter your starting point and destination, and Alongways does the work for you.

You can even search for specific locations such as dog parks, hotels or gas stations along your route.

6. Book Your Hotel in Advance

If you aren't planning on staying with family during your vacation, book your hotels before you set out on the road. Try to reserve rooms in hotels that have swimming pools if you have small children.

Most children love the pool and it's something the whole family can participate in and have a good time.

Another great tip is to bring painter's tape to cover up electrical outlets in your hotel room. Children just love to explore new environments and most hotels are not child proof.

young family getting into a hotel

It's Time to Take Your Summer Road Trip

With your checklist in hand, you've managed to tune-up your car, pack car trip essentials, plan your route and book your hotels in advance.

What's left?

Everyone went to the bathroom? Check.

Car has a full tank of gas? Check.

Car is packed and the children have games? Check

You and your family are ready to go on your family road trip. Take pictures and enjoy the trip!

Now, it's your turn ­– what's your number one survival tip for planning a summer road trip with your children?

Family pulled over while on a road trip
RELATED: Road trip to Niagara Falls via the roads less travelled 




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